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New ‘Helitak’ helicopter crew provides fast-attack option for wildfires

Members of the new Diamond Fork Helitak crew stand outside their helicopter.
Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands
Members of the new Diamond Fork Helitak crew stand outside their helicopter.

The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands is expanding its wildfire aviation program to include a specialized helicopter with a crew of wildland firefighters who will be the first on the ground to attack wildfires.

Helitak crew members are highly skilled and qualified firefighters transported to wildfires by helicopter, enabling crews to respond quickly and engage an active fire. The new wildfire aviation crew is made up of eight wildland firefighters who will assist with initial attack – the first course of action taken by firefighters to aggressively extinguish fires.

“This helitak crew is the next logical step in expanding our aviation capabilities within the Division,” said Mike Melton, Deputy State Fire Management Officer for Aviation. “Adding this aircraft and crew augments our heavy lift aircraft capabilities by getting boots on the ground quickly into inaccessible areas as well as the wildland-urban interface.”

Hotter-than-normal summer temperatures and continued grass and brush growth, has fire officials concerned that this summer will be an active one for wildfires.

In anticipation of the active summer months, the state has contracted to include the Type 3 helicopter and the Diamond Fork Helitak crew in its arsenal of firefighting tools.

The crew, stationed at the Spanish Fork Airport, will assist in wildfire suppression efforts during the summer months with the opportunity to extend the contract if there is high fire activity in the state.

The helicopter can be fashioned with a water bucket to perform water drops to aid suppression efforts. When not directly engaged in fire suppression, the aircraft can also transport equipment to the fire line and aid firefighting crews with logistical support.